“Keep the Shiny Side Up and the Muddy Side Down”

“Keep the shiny side up and the muddy side down,” is an old trucker saying that means in dry or sloppy weather, drivers kept trucks upright and on or near the roadway. It doesn’t mean a truck never got away from me. That happened in the wee hours of a late winter morning, when heavy snow and terrible road conditions caused a car to flip several times in front of me and burst into flames! I was running about 35mph in the hammer lane and barley got the truck stopped on the left side of the road with a steep culvert. I thought all was ok until I felt my rear trailer, I was pulling a set of doubles, start to slide down the culvert wall. Almost in slow motion the truck tipped over and softly landed on its driver side. Newscasts that day had predicted heavy snow and high winds in the 65 corridor headed to Chicago. Local radio was warning of jackknifed and stranded semis on various Interstates, and a many in ditches. While I’d pulled trailers through snow and ice in Wisconsin winters, I sometimes whined about traffic, idiot car drivers, and the weather. I relayed my weather concerns to my dispatcher and he demanded I run anyway.

My boss, a former driver, once lectured, “You’re the one who’s supposed to be in control of the truck. If you get into trouble, you’re the one who’s responsible.” Funny thing: Police tend to see it that way, too. My boss could’ve added that for every truck and driver that comes to grief along a certain stretch of road, there are many that don’t. They must’ve done something right. Slow way down in blinding conditions? Sure, but not so suddenly that you get rear-ended. Even better, park the truck in a safe place, like a truck stop, customer’s yard (if they’ll allow it), or rest area, and wait out the storm. Watching weather forecasts, particularly those of a local and regional nature, can tip off drivers and, more importantly, their supervisors, that conditions are risky and alterations should be made to normal operations.

Fog and whiteouts caused by blowing snow can often be anticipated by considering the time of the year and what regularly happens along certain stretches of roadway. For instance, some highways in the Upper Midwest and Northeast are subject to lake-effect snow accompanied by high winds, said John Woodroofe, director of vehicle research at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Center a couple of years ago. Whiteouts should be no surprise, especially because state transportation departments issue advisories that conditions are ripe for them to happen. Owners of the tractor-trailers involved in multi-vehicle pileups under such conditions ought to ask themselves, “Should my truck have been on the highway that day? Wouldn’t it be wiser to pause operations or reroute trucks away from the affected areas?”

The pressure to deliver freight on time causes drivers and dispatchers to want to push through no matter what the weather. That pressure can be lessened by bad-weather protocol that involves the entire company, from dispatch and operations right up to top executives. We need a driver protocol for fog and whiteout conditions, which covers what they should do when they suddenly encounter zero visibility, or severe weather in general. Shippers and receivers should be involved so they understand that delivery delays are far better than their goods being scattered across the site of a bad wreck!

My advice to all drivers is slow down, pay attention and communicate with your dispatchers when the weather turns nasty. My plea to shippers and receivers is to listen to their drivers and be educated in the safety of their drivers, equipment and freight. No load is worth the cost of a terrible accident!

At NSC Technologies we believe in Safety First, it’s one of our core values. Our RoadForce Driver’s Division has incorporated the JJ Keller Safety Program to help remind our drivers about the importance of safe driving habits in all weather conditions.

It’s tough to find skilled, reliable help. NSC Technologies provides talented, hardworking people who will get the job done right. We have a national footprint to cover your logistics needs no matter where they are needed. Whether your organization is in need of qualified reliable drivers or you are a qualified driver looking for an opportunitycontact us today.

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